New landmark for UK’s publicly-owned train operator
Instead of launching the announced public private partnership on the East Coast Main Line, UK’s government has acted otherwise. It extended the Direct Award for London North Eastern Railway (LNER), a publicly-owned train operator, for 3 years. This, as the Department for Transport claims, will allow the undertaking to improve its services on the way from London towards North East England and Scotland.
The momentous decision was unveiled on Friday, 26 June. LNER as a public-sector train operator will continue its services on the East Coast Main Line in the same status for 3 more years. “This further direct award will enable LNER to continue delivering planned improvements for passengers, including completing the roll out of Azuma trains and a major timetable uplift that will increase the number of services on offer to passengers and improve journey times,” the Department for Transport noted in its statement. In addition, the new Direct Award has an extension option for the period of up to 26 rail periods or 52 years.
LNER has been running on the East Coast Main Line since the end of June 2018 as Virgin Trains had failed to secure a satisfactory level of services on its routes. During the past two years, the publicly-owned operator has already achieved some success. For instance, the company started to replace the old InterCity 125 diesel trains with the new Azuma bi-mode units. This results in a high customer satisfaction score: 87 per cent in 2018 and 89 per cent in 2019.
Taking into account LNER’s experience, the government took control of the Northern franchise on the North of England. A new public-sector operator, which was branded as Northern Trains, is running since March 2019. Besides LNER and Northern Trains, there were two earlier examples of the publicly-owned operators. Both provided services on the East Coast Main Line: South Eastern Trains from November 2003 to March 2006 and the East Coast Main Line Company (with the ‘East Coast’ trading name) from November 2009 to February 2015.